On this day 27 years ago, a 16 year old boy turned up for the Indian Cricket Team for the first time. It was India’s tour of Pakistan and they were playing at a lush green top at Karachi. The conditions were as hostile as they can ever be for any experienced batsman, leave alone a young debutant, given the quality and skills of the Pakistan fast bowlers and the pitch itself. The 16 year old, who looked like 14 was famously even taunted by the opposition in the nets about him finishing the homework and informing his school teacher that he is playing here (more so for his age and appearance). Little did they know that the boy was going to make the best of the bowlers forget their homework for the next 24 years to come. If one has not been living on mars for the past three decades, he would know that the boy being talked about here is none other than the God himself – Sachin Tendulkar.
Sachin Tendulkar as now the world knows holds most of the batting records, in fact to put into perspective its safe to say that he holds the record for holding the most records. Any die hard cricket fan knows Sachin’s numbers by heart. His single-handedly match winning centuries and charismatic bowling under pressure were recorded in the scoresheets but one thing that could never be quantified was his persona and his presence.
Sachin came up through the ranks of domestic cricket by hitting centuries on debut in all the three major tournaments in India, namely Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy and Deodhar Trophy. At the time of his international debut, Sachin was regarded as a special batsman but what he displayed pretty early in his career, changed that perspective from special to genius. The first tour of Pakistan for Sachin had not much to show in terms of numbers but the grit and guts that he displayed were nothing short of inspirational. In the fourth and the final test of the series at Sialkot, Sachin was hit on the nose, by a bouncer from Waqar Younis, who incidentally made his debut on the same day as Sachin. There was blood gushing from his nose to drip his face and shirt. Any sensible batsman would have walked back to the pavilion for treatment but young Sachin refused any medical assistance and continued to play. The sight was enough to give goosebumps to his teammates and the viewers across the world. Sachin had declared to the world that he was not there to shy away. The world had acknowledged that the boy had some serious mettle. On the same tour in an exhibition match, Sachin showed the glimpses of his greatness which was to follow in his career. He clobbered veteran leg spinner Abdul Qadir for 4 sixes and a boundary on his way to a 18 ball 53 run innings. Abdul Qadir had admitted after the match that the boy was not any ordinary batsman.
What followed were a string of career defining performances for Sachin with a score of 80 odd runs on his next tour of New Zealand and then later in England, becoming the second youngest batsman in cricket history to score a test century which was followed by a gritty and match saving half century. On his next tour to Australia, he scored another century at Sydney and another one at the WACA, Perth, famously known as the graveyard for batsmen. What was most memorable about those innings was the way Tendulkar dominated the ferocious fast bowlers of Australia and that too on fast and bouncy Australian wickets. This was an unseen experience for the Indian fans and that is precisely how and where the legend of Tendulkar started. Indian fans had not seen any Indian batsman before Tendulkar, hitting the fast bowlers so well. Sachin would hit short balls outside off stump, coming at 90 miles per hour, over the covers, such was his skill. His straight drives, short arm pulls, backfoot punch, hooks and to be fair, every shot that he played was special.
More than his statistics, Sachin Tendulkar’s enigma was something that can never be replicated. The level of emotions that Sachin brought out in Indian fans was incredible and unmatched. He made every cricket fan’s dream come true through his batting, a dream of domination and fearlessness. India always had great batsmen in test matches like Vijay Hazare, Sunil Gavaskar, Dilip Vengsarkar and many more but none matched the ability of Sachin Tendulkar to grab the game by its neck and dictate terms.
Sachin’s aggression and consistency were a lethal combination. His game led the nation to rally behind him every single time he walked out to bat. People were watching cricket because of Sachin’s batting and watched till Sachin batted. Yes, for more than a decade, it became a routine for the viewers to shut down their radio and television sets as soon as Sachin got out because he was considered and also had proven many a time that he was a one man army in the 1990s and it was widely known that the ODI team of that time was one of the weakest team ever to have played for India. Everyone believed India could win only if Sachin batted till the end. Such was the charisma of the man that he made India believe in miracles. No matter what the opposing team did, India always knew Sachin could achieve it on his own. He got the support of an able team in the 2000s and he showed how the world could be beaten. If not his bat, he could turn around matches with the ball too. He was an entertainer of the highest order.
Pick any random people from the streets and ask them their favorite Sachin innings and see the magic unfold. Everyone has stories about Sachin’s innings and even names to it like the desert storm innings where Sachin alone carried the Indian team through to the finals of the coca cola cup in Sharjah through his 143 runs in a must win match and then helped win the tournament with another century. His innings at Auckland, his first as an ODI opener or his century against Sri Lanka in 1996 world cup or any of the 9 ODI centuries in 1998 that included that assault on Henry Olonga or his 98 at centurion in 2003 world cup against Pakistan or his 175 against Australia in 2010 or his 200 not out, his twin centuries in world cup 2011 and all of his 51 centuries in test matches. To choose a favourite Sachin innings is more difficult than a kid being asked to choose between ice cream flavours. Sachin Tendulkar meant so much to the nation that even stock exchange had side effects of Sachin’s game. A study had proved that Sachin playing well meant happy people and that led to more buying in the stock markets and vice versa.
Sachin Tendulkar means so much more than just numbers. Sachin is hysteria, hope, belief, joy and nostalgia. He is the single reason behind the love affair of cricket with me and billion of people like me and you. Sachin was the reason behind cricket becoming a religion in India and rightfully he is known as the God of cricket. He played and entertained us for 24 years but still felt so less. All I would like to shout out now is “Sachin Sachin”.